It seems since I learned about miller Fillipo Drago, I wanted to see him at work. I finally got the chance in my Sicilian pilgrimage this summer. Here are some of the sights and sounds at his mill in Castelvetrano.
Sunrise Flour Mills, located in Minnesota, makes great flours. I only found out from an Italian baker living in Sweden named Barbara Elisi. I ended up ordering four bags of their Red Fife Bolted and Turkey Red, both refined wheat. So far I've had some amazing results. It shows you that these days, a wired world yields word-of-mouth recognition. It's using the product that will prove the rumors. Sunrise Flours proved it to me. Thanks, Barbara Elisi. I hope you will try them and thank her, too.
Maine Grains offered me a sample of some wonderful milled flour from locally sourced farms. So far I've used it alone and with other organic and heritage flours. What a difference in handling, as well as in taste. Buy flour from the supermarket, there's a small chance you'll know where and who farmed and milled it. But this from Maine, you know it's coming from good earth.
When my sister suggested a visit to a grain mill in a nearby village, I hadn't thought about a bike trip. So my brother in-law prepared the bicycles, folded a map and we started out on what seemed a leisurely ride, me all bedecked in my pro cycling outfit and he on his clunky old bike!! Little did I know what lay in wait over each successive hill, and my mind wandered off as I gasped for air on every climb! The Traffic song John Barleycorn came to mind, "And the miller he has served him worse than that, for he's ground him between two stones", though it may in fact have been due more in part to my not being in as good shape physically, more likely my devilish brother in-law trying to test my will, I was starting to feel like a crushed grain!! When we finally arrived to the mill of Herr Sämii Graf in Maisprach. He explained to us his specialty was spelt, the grain most common in this area of Switzerland. Spelt, or dinkel as it is called in German, substitutes for those people who can’t eat wheat in their diet. The other reason in the case of Herr Graff, he was the only person locally who had the proper machine to remove the chaff from the spelt, it’s a hard nut to crack, and herr Graf is the guy to do it! The mill has been in operation since 1637, it was under the administration of mister Graf's grandfather who was retiring when Sämi showed interest in keeping it running. His mother explained how he carried on studying and working at the mill and finally took over at the age of 19, while in army service Sämi would have some maneuvers nearby and during in his free time would drive over with fellow soldiers who would help him keeping the mill working! As he explained the process of the mill which had grown three times it original size since he had taken over, due in part to his being the only local miller to process spelt; the grains husk is harder than most grains like wheat or rye, and requires a hammering machine that only Sämi has, it's also the highest grain in production. Rudi showed us the way the spelt is sorted, I asked question about the amylase levels and tried to sound knowledgeable as possible, in fact we really spoke a common language when he recognized the terms even with my lack of German vocabulary and I felt assured that the bond between baker was not lost by language, (even as home baker on my part!) I was glad to have found connection with the miller. We entered the mill where his flour production took place, surrounded by antiqued machines and scale.He then gave us a demonstration of how the milling worked, separating the ground grain and the sifting process to get different grades, a whole variation of flour types from 80% high extraction, white, whole wheat and bran! The engine of the machine turned and Rudi would demonstrate the varieties and levels of mixes that came out of mill. I admired his knowledge and his love of work that goes hand in hand directly from grain to the mill and finally the finished flours he produces. When we went back to his small shop he laughed at the way I stared at his flour selection, mouth agape; snapping with my camera and telling my brother in-law how all the bakers on my trip to Wales would be so envious! I quickly snapped up the high extraction flour and some brotgewurze, (spices), I told him that this flour is unavailable on the US market except for commercial bakers, as well as the other flours and mixes he had available! He handed me a card and told me they would have a website soon, I can't wait to order flour again from him; My first loaf, a Miche with the high extraction flour from his mill! As a parting gift he handed us two bottles of Dinkel Bier, mmm the thirst quencher!!! Graf Mühle Maisprach Mühle 4464 Maisprach